Alumni Applause

Delores Rankin

November 8th, 2019 by alumni

Delores Gibbs Rankin was born in Jefferson County, Mississippi, where she attended both elementary and high school. She has two degrees from Jackson State University: a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology (1969); and a Masters in Sociology (1980).

Rankin started working as an Eligibility Worker with the State Department of Public Welfare in 1970. Five years later, she was appointed to Social Worker until 1980. Effective July 1, 1980, she was appointed the first African-American County Director for the Jefferson County Welfare Department. She faithfully kept this position until she retired in August 2010.

During her forty years of employment, Rankin was affiliated with numerous community organizations, including the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Jefferson County Extension Services Advisory Council, Jefferson County School District Federal Programs Advisory Committee, AJFC Community Action Board of Directors, Chairperson of Jefferson County Daycare Center, Medgar Evers Home Health Advisory Board and Chapter I Parent Advisory Council.

Rankin’s dedication and professional work ethic over the years also afforded her the opportunity to work with other organizations: FHA Agricultural Council, Headstart Policy Council, Jefferson County Vo-Tech Advisory Board, Mental Health Advisory Council, Vice President of State Employees Association of Mississippi, County and Regional Directors Association, Interagency Council for Jefferson County, Southwest Development and Planning District, Jefferson Comprehensive Health Center Advisory Council, Jefferson County Economic Development County and Home Extension Services Advisory Council.

Rankin is a devoted member of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Fayette, Mississippi. Her church affiliations include Usher Board President, Finance Committee Chairperson, Senior Choir Treasurer, Sunday School Treasurer, United Methodist Women Treasurer, Building Fund Committee Secretary, and Adult Sunday School Teacher.

She has four children and eight grandchildren, and in her spare time, she likes to travel, shop, help others, spend time with family, and indulge in fishing. Rankin considers it an honor to have served in various positions within the Department of Human Services because by putting God first and having a great dedicated staff, she was able to assist many individuals in need.

Posted in Alumni Applause

Britani Danielle Johnson

November 4th, 2019 by alumni

Britani Danielle Johnson is a third generation Jacksonian earning both of her degrees from Jackson State University: a bachelor’s degree in mass communication (2009); and a master’s degree in public policy and administration (2015).

She was recently appointed as the community relations coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, a National Football League (NFL) team in Buffalo, New York. In her role, Johnson is responsible for organizing and implementing community initiatives, as well as actively engaging in the Buffalo community to assess needs and opportunities that lead to productive ways for the organization to become community partners.

Prior to working for the Buffalo Bills, she worked as the manager of ticket operations for the Atlanta Legends, an American Football League in Georgia. Johnson also worked as the assistant director of Ticket Sales and Operations at Jackson State University.

A native of Garland, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, Johnson is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and the Jackson State University National Alumni Association, Inc. She truly enjoys helping others and it is her hope to inspire and mentor young women attending her favorite HBCU-Jackson State University. In doing so, she specifically would like to mentor female students pursuing a career in sports. Johnson's desire to help young ladies in this area correlates to her favorite quote, “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” — Michelle Obama

Posted in Alumni Applause

Adam Powell

October 28th, 2019 by alumni

Adam Powell is originally from Montgomery, Alabama and is the son of a state trooper and social worker. He is a proud 2005 graduate of Jackson State University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications, and he also holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. Inspired by the hard work, perseverance, and dedication of his parents, Powell has committed his life to fulfilling the needs of others, specifically in the field of education.

In September 2019, Powell began serving as President & CEO of Communities in Schools (CIS) in the Dallas, TX. Prior to joining CIS Dallas, he served as the Vice President of College Possible, a national college access and success organization. In that role, he was responsible for performance in fundraising, program delivery, staff management and development, site board development, and community relations across all sites, including Seattle, Portland, Minnesota, Chicago, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Omaha.

Before joining College Possible, Powell served as leader of several education organizations in a variety of capacities, including Director of Strategic Planning, Chief Operating Officer, and Executive Director. Working with Dallas mayors such as Mike Rawlings and Tom Leppert, he was instrumental in designing and implementing the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program, now one of the largest high school intern programs in the country. In 2017, Powell, in conjunction with Mayor Rawlings, founded the Mayor’s Cup, a public debate partnership between the City of Dallas and Dallas Urban Debaters focused on some of society’s most divisive issues.

Along with his professional responsibilities, Powell has been active in several community organizations, including the Southern Dallas P-16 Council, the Mayor’s Star Council, the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee and the National College Access Network. He has spoken to groups across the country on behalf of the United Negro College Fund, as well as other colleges, universities, and non-profits. In 2011, he was selected to Dallas Furniture Bank’s “40 under 40” club, honoring individuals under the age of 40 making a positive impact in the Dallas Community.

Powell resides in Dallas, TX and is the proud father of his 8-year-old son, Carson Powell.

Posted in Alumni Applause

Cornell William-Brooks

October 21st, 2019 by alumnirelations

Cornell William Brooks, former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), will serve as Visiting Professor of the Practice of Prophetic Religion and Public Leadership at The Harvard Divinity School for the 2019 – 2020 academic year. Prior to leading the NAACP, Brooks was president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. He is a civil rights attorney, ordained minister, and Harvard Kennedy School professor, who was most recently a visiting scholar at The Harvard Divinity School during the 2018 – 2019 academic year. At Harvard Kennedy School, Brooks is Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice, and is also director of the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at the school’s Center for Public Leadership. His courses this academic year include “Creating Justice in Real Time: Vision, Strategies, and Campaigns,” and “Morals, Money, and Movements: Criminal Justice Reform as a Case Study.”

Brooks holds a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School and a Master of Divinity degree from Boston University’s School of Theology with a concentration in Social Ethics and Systematic Theology where he was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar. He was born in El Paso, Texas in 1961. He grew up in Georgetown, South Carolina and is a graduate of Head Start. Brooks attended Jackson State University, where he received the Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with honors. While studying as a Martin Luther King Scholar, Brooks was awarded both the Oxnam – Leibman Fellowship for outstanding scholarship and promoting racial harmony, and the Jefferson Fellowship for outstanding scholarship and excellence in preaching. He also was a Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal and member of the Yale Law and Policy Review Committee.

Brooks is a fourth generation ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was called to join the ministry while attending Jackson State University where he met his wife, Janice. They have two sons, Cornell Brooks II, and Hamilton Brooks. Brooks is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.

Posted in Alumni Applause

Dr. Gregory Antoine

October 6th, 2019 by alumnirelations

Dr. Gregory A. Antoine is the former Fayetteville North Carolina VA Medical Center Chief of Staff serving over 75,000 veterans. He spent 12 years as Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Boston University School of Medicine and had a dual faculty appointment in the both the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and the Department of Surgery. He held the rank of both Associate Professor of Surgery and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.   Prior to his Boston University appointment, he served as an Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. Dr. Antoine was the first African – American plastic surgeon to lead an academic plastic surgery division at a nonhistorically Black Medical School in the United States.

Dr. Antoine is a veteran of both the United States Navy and the United States Army retiring with the rank of Colonel from the Army. He holds a Doctorate of Medicine degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an undergraduate degree from Jackson State College. He completed his Otolaryngology training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He then completed a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Residency at the Georgetown University School of Medicine followed by fellowship training in Cranio – Maxillofacial Surgery at the Eastern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine. Dr. Antoine earned a Master of Business Administration degree from The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, a Master’s degree in Project and Program Management from Brandies University and a Master of Public Administration degree from The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He holds an Executive Certificate in Management and Leadership from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management and a certificate in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from Harvard Law School.

He is a fellow in the American College of Surgeons, a member of the Society of University Otolaryngologists Head and Neck Surgeons and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is certified by both the American Board of Otolaryngology and the American Board of Plastic Surgery. He has served as an examiner for the American Board of Plastic Surgery Inc. oral certifying examination and has served on the Board of Trustees of the National Medical Association. He is a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. During the years of the Black student movement and the fatal shooting that occurred on Friday, May 15, 1970, at Jackson State College, a historically Black college (now Jackson State University) in Jackson, Mississippi, Dr. Antoine was a student on campus at the time.  After the shooting he testified before a congressional panel on campus unrest and was selected as a student representative who traveled to Washington, DC to meet with the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon’s domestic advisor on campus unrest.


Posted in Alumni Applause

Tramell Tillman

September 3rd, 2019 by alumni

Tramell Tillman makes his Broadway debut in the epic new play: The Great Society at Lincoln Center, September 6th – January 20th.  

Tramell graduated summa cum laude from Jackson State University in 2008 with the Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications. During his matriculation, he was involved with several social and civic organizations such as, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Student Government Association, National Association of Black Journalist; Making A Difference Doing Respectable And Meaningful (MADDRAMA) Performance Troupe, Tiger Pride, and was inducted into several honor societies. Perhaps one of the most influential experiences at Jackson State University was his involvement with the Children Defense Fund Freedom Schools (a program in conjunction with Kids Kollege). It was through this organization that he was able to blend his love for education, passion for the arts, and drive for community involvement and civic engagement in order to serve children affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. 


Tramell has graced the screen and stage for over 20 years. Some of his more recent roles include “Steven” in the critically acclaimed American Movie Classic (AMC) series Dietland, “Seargent Brown” in the award winning musical revival of Carmen Jones starring Anika Noni Rose, and originating the role of “Chris” in the Pulitzer Prize-winning international hit play Sweat by Lynn Nottage. This past spring, Tillman wrapped a brand new series coming to Amazon called “The Hunt” starring Al Pacino. 


This District of Columbia (DC)/Maryland native graduated top of his class from The University of Tennessee with in the Master of Fine Arts acting program in Knoxville. He was the first African – American male to complete the program in 2014. While at The University of Tennessee, the Arts of College and Sciences named Tillman as its “Student to Watch.” He was nominated and selected out of a population of over 25,000 students. Since graduating, he has moved to New York working with award-winning directors such as John Doyle, Robert O’Hara, Lisa Peterson, Lee Sunday Evans, Woodie King Jr., just to name a few. 


The classically trained actor is no stranger to the classics. He took on the role of Laertes in a production of Hamlet at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and recently performed in a staged reading of Play On, a project commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to translate all 39 of Shakespeare’s plays. This September you can catch Tramell on a brand new grizzly series on Epix called “Godfather of Harlem” starring Academy Award-winner Forrest Whitaker. Set in 1960s Harlem, he plays a successful record producer at the cusp of a social uprising leading to the Civil Rights Movement.


Tramell plays multiple roles in Robert Schenkkan’s new play, The Great Society. Some include Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Leader, Bob Moses, Civil Rights Titan, Hosea Williams, and Marquette Frye. This play chronicles three years of American history during Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration watching the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the passing of numerous programs that have shaped our nation.


In his spare time, Tramell works in local communities supporting causes of arts advocacy, mental health awareness, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA) Rights, and causes focusing on persons of color. He is an ally, a singer, dancer, activist, confidant; but most of all he is an artist committed to giving voice to the voiceless. He believes in the transformative power of the Arts. In his opinion it’s one of the purest channels into preserving and enhancing all of humanity.

Posted in Alumni Applause

Michael Gater

August 28th, 2019 by alumni

Michael A. Gater, PHR, SHRM-CP is a native of Jackson, Mississippi.  He is a proud 1984 honors graduate of Jackson State University and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management.

In July 2019, Gater was named the Director of Human Resources for the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA), which is the governing entity for the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (JAN) and Hawkins Field (General Aviation) Airport (HKS). He is responsible for managing and integrating broad, comprehensive human resource management programs and safety for the Authority at JAN and HKS.

For over twenty-one years, Gater dedicated his career to enhancing the management of resources related to employees.   Prior to joining the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, he served as the Regional Site Human Resources Manager at Faurecia Automotive Seating for its Madison and Cleveland, Mississippi plants.  His experience spans several industries (Auto Manufacturing, Cable and Entertainment, Waste Services and Retailing), where he has held corporate, division, and regional/field HR leadership roles. 

Committed to giving back to the HR industry and to his community, Gater is a life-long member and Past President of the Rho Xi Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. He is the former Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated Director of National Programs for the District of Mississippi and serves on the Mississippi Alpha Network Executive Board as the Area Director for Jackson, Brookhaven, and Canton. Gater also serves on the March of Dimes Central Mississippi Board of Directors.

Gater has held previous board positions with Anderson United Methodist Church, Capital Area HR Association, and United Way of the Capital Area, Jackson Council PTA, Mississippi PTA and Mississippi Children’s Home Services (Canopy Children’s Solutions). 

He resides in Jackson, Mississippi, with his wife Ada. 

Posted in Alumni Applause

Dr. John A. Peoples, Jr.

August 25th, 2019 by alumni

Dr. John A. Peoples, Jr., is a native of Starkville, Mississippi, where he attended elementary and secondary schools.  After graduating from high school, he was drafted into the United States Marine Corps and was Honor Man in his recruit training platoon and sharpshooter rifleman. He was number one in his noncommissioned officers class and spent 2 ½ years in the United States Marine Corps attaining the rank of Sergeant. He served as a Drill Instructor at Montfort Point, the recruit training camp for Black marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, during World War II. He also attended Radio Technicians class at the Tracked Vehicle Battalion, Camp Pendleton, California, where he subsequently served as a radio technician.

In July 2012, Dr. Peoples was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, as one of the African–American Marines of World War II who were trained at the racially segregated Montford Point Camp of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

After discharge from the Marine Corps, Dr. Peoples entered Jackson State University in September 1947 where he earned the Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. While attending Jackson State University, he was on the varsity football and track teams and was elected president of the Student Government Association for two consecutive years. After graduating number one in his class in 1950, he attended the University of Chicago, where he earned the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy Degrees.

After serving 13 years in the public school system of Gary, Indiana, as a teacher and school principal, Dr. Peoples was employed at Jackson State University as a Professor of Mathematics and Vice President in 1964. He was elected President of Jackson State University in 1967.

Dr. Peoples served as President of Jackson State University from 1967 to 1984. During his 17-year tenure as President, the University experienced dramatic growth in enrollment, program, and physical plant that was unparalleled by any period in its history. The student enrollment grew from 2,200 to 7,800. The academic program developed from the baccalaureate level in essentially teacher education to a five – school professional program up to the doctoral level. Accreditation grew from the general regional accrediting associations, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), to nine national departmental accreditations. The physical plant of the University increased fivefold in classroom space, administrative space, and land.

The administration of Dr. Peoples included the dramatic years of the Black Student Revolution in which African–American college students in both white and black colleges were in the vanguard of the civil rights movement. During this period, Jackson State University experienced four consecutive years of student upheavals. The most tragic year was 1970 when on May 14th, city and state law officers fired on students in a Women’s dormitory killing two students and wounding 22.

In 1974, the landmark Ayers v Waller desegregation suit was filed in Mississippi. As president of Jackson State University, Dr. Peoples played a strategic role in support of the plaintiff’s efforts against the State College Board to eliminate the dual system of higher education. In his book, To Survive and Thrive, Dr. Peoples poignantly treats these two critical periods of his administration.

Dr. Peoples has been active in the academic world, serving on the boards and commissions of virtually all of the major national and southern regional associations. He was one of the pioneers in the establishment of the National Association for Equal Opportunity (NAFEO) in the early seventies and was the first African–American to serve as Chairman of the Board of the American Council on Education.

The Jackson State University Athletic Program, under the presidency of Dr. Peoples, produced six Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships in football, seven in baseball, thirteen in men’s track, five in women’s track, and six in men’s basketball.

Dr. Peoples is active in community and civic affairs. He has served ten years as a commissioner on the Jackson Airport Authority, four years on the Board of Directors of the Jackson Zoological Park and six years on the Board of Directors of Goodwill Industries. He served twenty–five years on the Board of Directors of The Piney Woods Country Life School. He served for 20 years on the Board of Directors of Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center. He served for seven years on the Civil Service Commission for the City of Jackson, Mississippi, two years of which as Chairman.

He serves on the Board of Directors of Jackson Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, the Board of Directors of The Jackson State University National Alumni Association, he serves on the executive committee of the Governor’s Commission to Establish a National Civil Rights Museum in Mississippi. In 2009, he was a recipient of the Mississippi Medal of Service from Governor Haley Reeves Barbour.

He has served on the Board of Directors Mississippi Ballet International, the Andrew Jackson Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He served as Chairman of the National Blue Ribbon Advisory Commission to the 11th President of Jackson State University, Dr. Ronald Mason, Jr.

Dr. Peoples is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and Sigma Pi Phi Boule Fraternity. He is a 33rd Degree Mason and a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Mississippi Conference of the NAACP conferred on him the Medgar Evers Award in 1983. He has been elected to the Jackson State University Sports Hall of Fame, The Jackson State University Hall of Fame, and the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame. In 1993, the National Black College Hall of Fame conferred on Dr. Peoples, the National Black College Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also given the Distinguished Alumni award by the National Association for Equal Opportunity (NAFEO) in 1993.

Dr. Peoples is the author of two books; To Survive and Thrive, published by Town Square Books, Inc. 1995; and How We Got Over published by John A. Peoples, Jr., Ph.D., 2008.   Dr. Peoples is married to the former Mary E. Galloway. They are the parents of two adult children, Dr. Kathleen Peoples, Ph.D., a United States Department Embassy Administrator, and Mark A. Peoples, Esq., Attorney, City of New Orleans.

Posted in Alumni Applause

Frances Nelson

August 15th, 2019 by alumni

Frances Jones Nelson, of Madison, was recently elected and installed as the 34th National President of the National Federation of Music Clubs. Founded 1898, NFMC has become the largest nonprofit organization in America to promote and support American music, performers and music education. As a grassroots organization working in communities throughout America, NFMC provides musical opportunities for all ages: professional and amateur musicians, benefactors, volunteers, music lovers, music teachers, music students, and supportive parents. With over 121,000 members, the National Federation of Music Clubs sponsors Festival programs, competitive events, Summer Music Centers, American Music Month, and National Music week, to name a few of its many worthwhile activities.

Mrs. Nelson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Mississippi College and received a Master of Music Education from Jackson State in 2015. "I came to Jackson State as a mature student. I had always wanted an advanced degree and finally decided to take the plunge and do it. I loved my time at JSU. I learned so much from the wonderful music faculty and enjoyed my time with the students. I was a little bit nervous about going to back to school and being so much older than my classmates, but the everyone made me feel welcome and it was truly a great experience."

She serves as Music Director and Organist at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson MS and is also chapel organist for Sebrell Funeral Home in Ridgeland MS. She enjoys singing with the Jackson Choral Society and is active in her neighborhood garden club and the cathedral flower guild.

"I came to Jackson State as a mature student. I had always wanted an advanced degree and finally decided to take the plunge and do it. I loved my time at JSU. I learned so much from the wonderful music faculty and enjoyed my time with the students. I was a little bit nervous about going to school and being so much older than my classmates, but the students made me feel welcome and it was Truly a great experience."

Posted in Alumni Applause

Darion Warren

August 12th, 2019 by alumni

Mr. Darion Warren, CFM, is a proud alumnus of Jackson State University where he received a Bachelors of Science Degree in Business Administration in 2005. Two years later, Warren obtained a Geographical Information System Technical Certificate from Hinds Community College. His thirst for learning continued at Belhaven University where he received a Master of Science Degree in Management in 2010.

A true pillar of the community, he is a graduate of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership’s Leadership Jackson Program class of 2011-2012 and a member of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the Airports Council International (ACI). He is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and Free & Accepted Mason Prince Hall Affiliation. He is also a member of Progressive M.B. Church where he serves as a Deacon. In 2011, Warren was named Jackson Free Press “Person of the Day.”

With over 19 years of government experience Darion’s successful career began in Public Works, as he served as the Infrastructure Manager for the City of Jackson and Hinds County, and Director of Public Works for the City of Brandon. While working in the Public Works field, he assisted with and managed several Public Works capital improvement projects and routine maintenance tasks such as street and drainage improvements, water and sewer improvements, and compliance with state and federal regulations. In 2010, he received Honorary Mention in the Association of Watershed and Storm Water Professionals (AWSP) Magazine.

Warren’s tenure with Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) began in August 2016 as the Director of Capital Programming. His role as Director of Capital Programming has allowed him the opportunity to direct and oversee the planning, design, and construction of Capital Improvement Program projects in support of the JMAA Strategic Plan 2021. This included forecasting a 5-year Capital Improvement Program for implementation. He was featured in the November 2018 edition of CE (Construction Executive) Magazine on improvements and expansions to airports due to increasing growth and aging infrastructure.

Recently appointed as the JMAA Chief Operating Officer, Warren was responsible for assisting the CEO in the day-to-day administration of the airport while overseeing the work of the Operations Department to include Airport Operations, Capital Programming, Custodial Services, Hawkins Field, Maintenance, and Police.

Now serving as the JMAA Interim Chief Executive Officer, Warren is the primary liaison between the JMAA Board of Commissioners and the JMAA staff. He is greatly responsible for providing leadership and support to establish and implement goals, objectives, and strategies of the organization.

His success is also attributed to his extensive training in several areas such as Airport Security Coordinator, Airport Landside and Terminal Management, storm water management, FEMA National Incident Management Systems, asphalt maintenance, and drainage maintenance, to name a few. He also has a Class D Certified Water Operator certification and Certified Floodplain Manager certification.

Warren is the son of James and Barbara Warren. He was born and raised in Brandon, Mississippi, where he resides with his wife ShaTerria.

Posted in Alumni Applause